Burnout.  It’s in vogue these days.  It seems to be turning into society’s new normal.  We are all busy keeping ourselves busy.  This busyness of society is not new,  Socrates commented on it centuries ago.

“Beware the barreness of a busy life.”

If you have been reading my musings, you know that I retired from my pediatric practice just over 2 years ago.  After closing my practice, it took me about 5 months to recognize I had been utterly burned out.  After reaching this blatantly obvious conclusion, I casually mentioned to a close friend, “I think I was burned out.”  Her response?  “Ya think?” It was one of several post-retirement “Dah-Doctor moments.”

Such is the nature of change I suppose.

Change, by definition, thrusts you into the discomfort zone of life – that uncomfortable place where you feel the edges of life a little too sharply.  The discomfort zone is also that beautiful zone where we rise to challenges, build courage, take risks and experience personal growth.

Sometimes change can land you deep in the panic zone – ‘the-OMG-what-have-I-done?-zone’ – also a place I’ve visited since my decision to retire.  We can all inadvertently end up in the panic zone – it’s just life sending us a wake-up/pay attention call.

I’ve also occasioned the bottom end of the spectrum – ‘the complacency zone’, which I refer to as the ‘Meh!-whatever-zone’ which, in my view, should be avoided whenever possible.

Two years after my Dah-Doctor revelation, I can honestly say I am recovered – no more burnout.  Being busy keeping myself busy, is no longer part of my vocabulary.  I have slowed my life down and I spend most of my time hanging out in ‘the comfort zone’ – that zone where you can relax and recharge after some inadvertent visits to the ‘panic’ or ‘meh-whatever’ zones.  I also venture into the discomfort/learning zone often, effectively expanding my comfort zone.

To prevent burnout, we need to spend most of our time in our comfort zone while venturing into our discomfort/learning zone often while being careful not to overshoot into the panic zone triggering a retreat into the complacency zone.   In essence, recharge yourself (comfort zone), challenge yourself (discomfort zone) and avoid too much stress (panic zone) or not enough stress (complacency zone).

Comfort zone – relax and recharge.
Discomfort zone – challenges, learn and grow.
Panic zone – what have I done?
Complacent zone – Meh, whatever.

What’s your comfort zone, and how often do you venture into your discomfort zone?  And have you built guardrails around the panic and complacency zones?

They should teach this stuff in high school!  What a better place the world could be!

Buff it up, my friends,
Dr Karen